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'Gas income should fund sustainable energy'
By SHARON UDASIN
06/06/2012
Adam Teva V’Din wants a portion of the royalties from natural gas drilling for fund to develop sustainable energy solutions.
 
A portion of the royalties the state receives from natural gas and oil drilling should go into a fund for developing sustainable energy solutions for the country’s future, a new report from green advocacy group Adam Teva V’Din (Israel Union for Environmental Defense) argues.

The report was presented at a session of the Knesset environmental- social lobby on Tuesday afternoon, as part of the Knesset’s annual Environment Day.

If the natural gas supply is being depleted now, the current generation needs to provide for the energy needs of the future, and the report suggests that one-fifth of the state revenues from oil and gas royalties should be dedicated to this cause. According to an economic analysis within the report, by 2035, this share of the revenues will reach about NIS 24 billion, an amount that could be used for developing renewable energy sources and energy efficiency.

“It is necessary to establish already today a dedicated fund whose money will be used as an investment toward development and research of the energy market in order to secure the future of our children,” Adam Teva V’Din executive director Amit Bracha said in a statement about the report.

Representatives from the environmental organization will be speaking with Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau on Thursday to see if he would consider promoting such a stipulation in bill form. If not, the team will approach a Knesset member for private bill promotion, Bracha told The Jerusalem Post after the session.

A second issue the report revealed was that about 25 kilometers off the coast, Israeli maritime territory is an economic zone and does not have to abide by the country’s environmental regulations.

“What we are very much worried about is that the companies doing the drilling are taking advantage of the fact that the Israeli law doesn’t apply to the economic waters,” said Bracha, who also wants to promote a bill to change this situation. “When they are drilling in the economic waters they can do whatever they want.”

A third item, he explained during the session, is the apparent disconnect between the need to produce energy and the need to protect the environment.

“There have to be real regulations on all subjects of drilling in Israel,” he told participants.

Particularly, the Energy and Water Ministry should not be in charge of both issuing drilling and production permits, and providing environmental authorization, Adam Teva V’Din representatives explained. Only after the 2010 BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico did the United States learn that these two responsibilities must be separated, governed by two different bodies, according to Bracha.

“We should not wait for catastrophic disasters to apply the lessons learned in the US,” he said in the report statement.

MK Dov Henin (Hadash) agreed, adding in the statement that “completely different thinking is required on gas and oil in the Mediterranean. We can transform this blessing into a curse.”

On this specific issue, Bracha told the Post that he did not think a bill was necessarily required, as the two ministries could simply come to an agreement on their own about the distribution of responsibilities.

“We will leave it to the government,” he said – noting, however, that “of course we are going to put a lot of pressure” on officials.

The report also covers a wide range of environmental impacts that can result from sea drilling, including from use of chemicals during drilling, dumping contaminated mud and water into the sea, and oil and gas leaks – all of which, the report argues, can pose potential threats to marine flora and fauna.

“There is no updated or designated regulation and legislation in Israel [for] the environmental aspects regarding the search for gas and oil reservoirs,” said attorney Dana Tabachnik, the head of economics and environment at Adam Teva V’Din. “Leaving the political and regulatory situation as it is today is dangerous to the environment and to public health and the marine population, and is likely to lead to an ecological crisis that is both environmentally and economically destructive.”
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